The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: September 2014

New Tools for the Options Role Play and Deliberative Dialogue

Choices recently reorganized its Teacher Corner web pages.  All of the tools listed below and more can be downloaded from the Teacher Corner and adapted to your classroom.

A big thank you to Choices Teaching Fellows Amy Howland and Deb Springhorn for their Common Core-aligned assessments and other valuable Role Play tools.

TOOLS FOR ROLE PLAY PREPARATION

How can you be sure each Option group is ready to present?  It can be useful to have students complete a check-in or “ticket” as entry into the Role Play.

  • Areas of Concern: This chart is designed as a check-in tool prior to the role play. We have provided a blank template and a completed sample – both based on our unit, China on the World Stage.  For less advanced students, you could provide them with the “description of the issues” and they would complete just the third column, which asks them to identify the priorities of their assigned option on each set of issues.  This could be done in groups or individually. More advanced students could be tasked with completing the entire chart.
  • Options Analysis Chart: In preparation for the role play, students in each option group could complete the section of this graphic organizer that pertains to their assigned option. The rest of this chart is designed for use during the role play.
  • DSC_7382Option Group Preparation Sheet & Undecided Citizens Preparation Sheet: Choices Teaching Fellow Amy Howland, a world history teacher at the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, MA,  has created two excellent worksheets to assist each group in its preparation.  At the end of each sheet, she includes the Options Role Play Rubric to give them a clear understanding of what is expected during the role play.

TOOLS FOR THE ROLE PLAY

  • Options Role Play Note-taking Sheet: Students can use this handout, developed by Amy Howland, to record the main idea of each option and the questions they have about each.
  • Options Analysis Chart: This matrix can be adapted to the specific content of the unit.  Students complete the matrix as they listen to the presentations of their peers.  Members of each option group may be asked to complete the section for their own option as part of their preparation.


TOOLS FOR DELIBERATION & PERSONAL OPTION OR OPTION 5

Once all options have been presented and all questions asked, it is time for a deliberative dialogue focused on the issues raised by the Options. Because students may be unclear about what deliberation is, and how it differs from debate, the following tools may be useful.

  • Guidelines for Deliberation: This handout offers a concise explanation.
  • Preparing for Deliberation: This worksheet helps students prepare for the discussion they will have.
  • Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 3.32.40 PMSpeaker Deliberation Cards: These cards can be an excellent guiding tool for students before or during the deliberation to keep them on task or to set goals.  For instance, do you want to encourage a quieter student to speak more?  Hand her the “Speak at least twice” card.
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay: After students complete the deliberation, they will write their own personal Option, sometimes called Option 5. This rubric, aligned with Common Core Standards, can help them understand the expectations. This rubric was createdby Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn from Lebanon High School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

TOOLS FOR ASSESSING THE ROLE PLAY, DELIBERATION, AND YOUR OWN OPTION

  • Assessment Rubrics: The following rubrics, each aligned with specific standards from the Common Core, provide excellent assessment tools for you and your students.
  • Options Role Play Rubric (developed by Amy Howland)
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay (developed by Deb Springhorn)
  • All other handouts also lend themselves to use for assessment.

Visit our revised Teachers Corner page to download all of our tools, adapt them, and make them work in your unique classroom!

 

Scotland votes on independence

On Thursday, the population of Scotland will be voting in a referendum to decide on whether the nation will secede from the United Kingdom. “Should Scotland be an independent country?” says the ballot paper, and until recently it has seemed that the answer would be an inevitable “no”. However, the pro-independence “Yes” campaign has led an impressive grassroots effort to incite the optimism of the Scottish people, leading to a recent poll placing them ahead of the “No” or “Better Together” campaign.

Campaign posters battle for space in Scotland. Image by The Justified Sinner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

Campaign posters battle for space in Scotland. Image by The Justified Sinner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

Indeed Scotland’s is a unique independence movement, relying not on traditional nationalist ideology or the heroism of overcoming an oppressor, but rather claiming that an independent Scottish government can do more for it’s people than the elected Scottish representatives in a British government. The “Yes” campaign is about not having to share oil revenue from the North Sea with the rest of Britain, being able to define policy without the involvement of those south of the Scottish border, and not having to put up with a government that is seen as not representing the interests of the Scottish people (Scotland tends to disproportionately vote for the Labour party, while the more populous England tends to vote in preference of the Conservative government in place in Westminster now).

The “No” campaign, on the other hand, hails pragmatic caution. It points to the problems with currency (while an independent Scotland may keep using the British pound, it seems that they would not have a seat at the table that decides on monetary policy and determines the value of the currency). Furthermore, should Scotland gain independence it would have to re-apply for its membership in the European Union—a membership that is very important for trade and economic development. It is not clear whether Scotland would regain this membership easily, or what agreements it would have to make to achieve this. Even the North Sea oil (what will be the pivot of an independent Scottish economy) has turned out to be less appealing, with technical experts pointing out that reserves are quickly diminishing and that the oil cannot be relied upon to prop up an entire country. With this economic insecurity, banks and businesses have threatened to move south should the referendum end in a “Yes.”

English, Scottish and Irish flags combine to form the Union Jack. Image by guilherme Paula (public domain) via wikimedia

English, Scottish and Irish flags combine to form the Union Jack. Image by Guilherme Paula (public domain) via wikimedia

One of the reasons that the “Yes” campaign and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are such a unique independence movement is because Scotland is not a colony. The Scottish people are not oppressed or overpowered by an imperialist power. They have a democratic stake in the British government, and they are treated as equal citizens. We can contrast this with the colonies in Africa, who were not fighting only for independence and the right to govern themselves but also for the overthrowing of a racialized system that established Africans as lesser beings. In the Choices unit Colonization and Independence in Africa, case studies on colonies and how they gained independence highlight this racism. In one of the primary sources used in the unit, a Ghanaian journalist points out that an aim of British colonial policy was “to suppress the educated African who is too articulate to be convenient to British repression.”

Even the independence movement in the United States, which did not have the same racial elements, compares unsatisfactorily to the Scottish issue. A More Perfect Union: American Independence and the Constitution considers how the American revolution grew out of discontent over the influence of the British Parliament in the colonies. As they became increasingly frustrated by the distance between them and Parliament, “colonists began to ask if they were obligated to obey laws passed without their consent.” When the Britain tightened its control over expansion in the colonies, imposed taxes, and enforced a staunch anti-smuggling regime, this anger turned into vast resistance of British controls. It is a fun oversimplification to say that the American Revolution was caused by taxes, but it is more realistic to argue that these taxes represented an oppressive British regime that was in no way accountable to the colonists and was out of touch with the situation in the colonies. This was the source of rebellion.

Realizing the differences between the Scottish “Yes” campaign and other independence movements makes the question of Scottish secession from the Union all the more complicated. It brings up new questions about how we define a country, how we consider the rights to self-determination, how we think about the problems of proportional or representative democracy. Should we keep drawing new borders until people feel appropriately represented by their governments? Where do we stop if we start doing this? How do we understand the roles of international organizations who seem to be a form of global government, if we believe that political decisions can only be made by a tightly localized government? Is there a case for other independence movements that have (like Scotland’s) up until now been dismissed as impractical or unlikely, such as in Texas or Quebec? Do the concerns raised by the Scottish independence movement help us to understand some U.S. modes of governance, such as state government and how the union works?

Rally for Scottish Independence. Image by Martainn MacDhomhnaill (CC BY-NC 2.0) via flickr

Rally for Scottish Independence. Image by Martainn MacDhomhnaill (CC BY-NC 2.0) via flickr

For up-to-date happenings surrounding the Scottish independence referendum as well as in-depth analysis, visit the BBC’s Scotland Decides page or Al Jazeera’s Scotland page.

Other interesting articles include Something extraordinary is happening in Scotland (from the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog) and Fate of United Kingdom hangs in balance after new Scotland polls (from South African paper, The Mail & Guardian).

 

More Choices units that deal with the theme of self-determination:

 

ISIS, Iran, and the Nuclear Negotiations: A Teaching with the News Extension

The Choices Program has just published two new Teaching with the News lessons. The first is on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. The deadline for coming to a final agreement is November 24, 2014, conveniently coming after U.S. elections and during a lame duck session of Congress.

The second lesson is on the threat of ISIS in the Middle East.

There is an important connection between these two issues. The United States and Iran share an interest in rolling back the threat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is fascinating to watch the video below of the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator,  Abbas Araghchi, as he chooses his words carefully about whether U.S. and Iranian military forces are already coordinating their efforts against ISIS. In the months after September 11, 2001, there was also substantive cooperation between the United States and Iran against the Taliban—cooperation whose end could be marked with President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech a few months later.

In both the United States and Iran, domestic political opposition to any kind of accord between these two countries remains significant. Whether cooperation against ISIS is merely tactical or  is part of  a recognition of shared security interests remains to be seen.

http://youtu.be/oR8Y0WKxzd0

There is an opportunity for teachers using one or the other of these Teaching with the News lessons to explore with students the relationship between the nuclear negotiation and the international response to ISIS. These two issues are critical to both the United States and Iran. It’s a terrific way to explore how complex policy making can be. Here are a few questions to spark discussion:

  • How does being aware of both of the issues effect students’ perceptions of how to respond these two policy issues?
  • How does the relationship between these issues affect Iran? …the United States?
  • Do students see the connection between the issues as an opportunity or a complication?
  • Henry Kissinger said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only  interests.” How does this statement relate to this situation? Do students agree with Kissinger?

 

 

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